The Bostonian wins her 10K debut in 32:08 as new faces fill the 10K podium
It was a hometown victory at the 47th Boston 10K for Women, presented by REI, as 27-year-old Annie Rodenfels broke the tape in her 10K debut in a time of 32:08. Rodenfels was followed by Emily Venters in a time of 32:31 and Jenny Simpson in 32:39. Under cloudy skies and a temperature of 66 degrees, the top three finishers represented a new cast of superstars in the 10K distance. For Rodenfels and Venters, it was their first 10K, and for longtime track superstar Jenny Simpson, her second.
A Boston resident, Rodenfels surged on the Massachusetts Avenue bridge and ran uncontested through the last mile until the Charles St. finish line. For the seasoned miler and steeplechaser, it was a surge she was counting on. “I thought I would sit back and wait and out-kick them at the end, like – their mistake if they leave me until the end – because besides maybe Jenny Simpson I think I’ve probably got the best kick in the field,” said Rodenfels, an American flag draped around her shoulders. “But I just felt too good, I figured I’d just go for it. What do I have to lose?”
Rodenfels matched the early pace set by Venters, who led a pack of 16 through a 5:10 first mile and 5:14 second mile. In her professional debut, Venters relied on a feel for competition that guided her through a decorated NCAA career at Utah. “I just went from the gun and trusted my instincts. A lot of times I try to go with a race plan but then I don’t end up following it – I just go with how I feel, and that’s kind of what I did hoping that people would go with me.”
As Venters pushed the pace through mile three, the pack began to thin. After the second turnaround on Memorial Drive, and through four miles, Rodenfels took the lead. After turning right on the Massachusetts Avenue bridge, she widened it to four seconds. “When Annie passed me, I just wanted to try and hold on for second as long as I can,” said Venters.
As throngs of runners cheered the lead pack returning into Boston, Rodenfels expanded her lead, and it grew it to eight seconds as she turned left onto Commonwealth Ave. “I have a rule that I don’t look back behind me in races, so honestly every single spectator I passed, especially when I saw someone I knew, I was hoping they would tell me what my gap was, but no one did, and so people were confused because I kept looking kind of intently at the people on the sidelines,’ laughed Rodenfels, who trains with the Boston Athletic Association high performance team. “But I couldn’t hear [Venters] with a mile to go, so I thought as long as I don’t have to go to the well, as long I keep this pace steady, I think I’ve got it.”
It’s the second year in a row a 27-year-old from the B.A.A. has won the race. Defending champion Erika Kemp, who now runs with Brooks and lives in Rhode Island clocked a 32:44 to finish fourth. Her training mate and five-time race Champion Molly Huddle finished fifth in 32:50.
For Rodenfels, who trains along the banks of the Charles River, the familiarity aided her approach in the new distance. “I like the course a lot – I love running in Boston, I feel like I can have a mediocre year the rest of the year and then when I get a race in Boston, I knock it out of the park. I feel like I get more cheers because I am from around here,” said Rodenfels. who earned $9,000 with the victory.
The race marked the second road race ever for Olympian Jenny Simpson, who continued to grow her road racing experience after a prolific career on the track. One of the most decorated runners in US track history, Simpson won a bronze in the 1500 at the Olympic Games. She represents PUMA and was thrilled to reach the podium. “I told a lot of the women after the race that they should try the mile, because this is a lot harder, said Simpson with a laugh. “It’s hard. You’re out there for a long time and the women around you are so talented, so thinking that I can run longer and harder than they do – it was a fight out there today, I’m really proud of how I finished.”
Simpson has her sights set on the 2024 Olympic Trails for the Marathon. “Without trying to sound too philosophical, I’m just in a transformation, and at 37 to think that I can transform and become a new athlete in a different event, a race for women feels like a really appropriate, empowering place to do that, so my strategy out here was just be tough to beat.”
Winning the Masters Division and finishing 11th overall was Sara Hall, who clocked a 33:19. Rising star Madelyn Wilson won the wheelchair division in a time of 35:50, racing for the first time in a larger chair, now 14 years old.
Formerly known as the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women, the race is New England’s largest all- women’s sporting event the second longest-running all-women’s race in the country. “When we first created the race, we were intent that it be covered on the sports pages as a sports event,” said race founder Dusty Rhodes. “Getting a women’s event on the men’s dominated sports pages – that was a big goal we achieved. It still is, but these days there are more barometers for success than being on the sports pages. We see so many women improving their lifestyles and their health in training for and competing in our race. To see so many women embolden themselves at our race, and to have a great time doing it – that’s great to see,”
The race attracted 4,049 official registrants to a bustling Boston Common, as the runners enjoyed a dry day after ominous forecasts for rain persisted all week. For the 47th year, the women’s race gathered athletes of all ages and backgrounds, representing 40 states, nine countries, and three continents. Runners from ages 7 to 82 registered for the event.
The race saw a 14% increase in registrations from 2022, marking another year of post-pandemic growth, and is enthusiastically supported by a group of sponsors, led by REI and PUMA, who brought enormous energy to the day’s activities.